Summit Lost Pet Rescue finds missing cat after 68 days

Juliet Alvarado, left, is pictured with her cat, Nala, and Brandon Ciullo, who helped rescue Nala along with other members of the Summit Lost Pet Rescue team after she went missing for 68 days.
Photo by Brandon Ciullo

DILLON – Rescue of lost animals at the summit did it again.

The nonprofit, which works to find and return lost pets to their owners, found Juliet Alvarado’s cat, Nala, 68 days after she went missing following a car accident.

Alvarado was driving with Nala on Interstate 70 on June 5 when she was involved in a car accident between the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels and Silverthorne. Nala rushed into the nearby woods. Emergency personnel took Alvarado to the hospital and tried to look for Nala, but they couldn’t find her.

“I remember being in the hospital and crying the whole time because I kept thinking about Nala,” Alvarado said. “I didn’t care about my well-being; I wanted to get her back. At that moment, I felt like my whole world was crushed because we had this type of bond, like a best friend bond. She understands me perfectly.

Alvarado adopted Nala from a feline rescue center in Denver two years ago when Nala was just 3 months old. Alvarado knew she couldn’t find another cat like Nala. After a few days, Summit Lost Pet Rescue was alerted to the situation, and nonprofit co-founder and president Brandon Ciullo took on the mission to find Nala.

Ciullo called the mission a story of hope and perseverance.

The “Pet Detective”, certified by the Missing Animal Response Network, explained that the animals usually stay within one mile of the car accident in which they were involved. Ciullo and his team set up four cameras in the area a quarter to half a mile apart.

On June 10, a photo of Nala appeared on one of the cameras, confirming that she was alive. Ciullo brought out wet cat food and sardines to try to get Nala out, but the food brought other animals like deer, foxes, and bears, and Nala hid.

Summit Lost Pet Rescue uses cameras to track and possibly trap missing pets.
Photo by Brandon Ciullo

Two to three weeks later, Ciullo began tossing Nala’s dry cat food around the area twice a week hoping she would come out of hiding in the middle of the night to eat. A few weeks later, Alvarado asked Ciullo if she should accept that her cat was gone, but Ciullo knew she was still alive.

“My gut told me she was still alive because bears don’t eat cats. Obviously deer and elk don’t eat cats. Foxes aren’t going to go after a cat. cat,” Ciullo said. “I knew she wasn’t getting eaten. My only thought was that maybe she had been pushed away, the animals had chased her. … I decided to keep the cameras there -down, and on July 17, about 5 and a half weeks later, I got another photo of her confirming that she was alive.

Ciullo removed all food from the area, thus getting rid of all other animals, which resulted in camera sightings of Nala becoming more frequent. Ciullo worked with volunteers Troy and Kendra Peterson in an attempt to trap Nala. Unarmed traps were set and surrounded by dry cat food. Then the cat food was placed inside the traps. Nala didn’t react to the traps at first, but then she got curious.

After noticing that Nala was afraid of traps, the team disarmed the traps to avoid scaring her if a trap failed. On August 10, Ciullo decided that Nala was comfortable enough with the traps that they could be rearmed. Nala was trapped that night. The Petersons checked the traps periodically throughout the night, and Troy Peterson found Nala on the first shift on August 10.

Juliet Alvarado holds her cat, Nala, at Summit County Animal Control and Shelter.
Photo by Brandon Ciullo

The next morning, Nala was taken to the vet and was in good health, losing only half a pound. She was cleaned up and taken to Summit County Animal Control and Shelter. Alvarado went to the Denver shelter that week to find her cat.

“It was super emotional,” Alvarado said of seeing Nala again. “I couldn’t believe she was there in front of me. Honestly, I feel like she knew who I was just because of the way she reacted. As soon as I called and I held out my hand, she just wanted me to caress her.

With Nala back home, Alvarado said it was like she never left. She was worried that Nala would look different after the experience, but she was relieved to find that Nala was the exact same cat as before.

Ciullo said he basically spent his summer finding Nala and thought people were giving up on missing cats too soon.

“This cat has been missing for 68 days on the side of I-70,” Ciullo said. “It gives hope to a lot of people. … I’m glad I followed my gut, followed my instinct, because it paid off.

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